Canon announces the EOS-R Mirrorless Camera, new RF Mount and RF Lenses

Canon's mirrorless announcement came up much more quickly than expected when I wrote about Nikon's announcement less than two weeks ago.  So much so, that I thought it was perhaps a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to being last out of the gate.  After going through the (very thorough!) content that Canon has released I can certainly say, thankfully, that there was nothing reactionary about Canon's mirrorless announcement earlier today.  They are taking their next big step in what will eventually be a non-DSLR future.  Sony led the way with full-frame mirrorless, and now with both Nikon and Canon firmly invested in the mirrorless future, today truly seems like a step-forward in the evolution of photography ... at least the tools that enable it.

There is a TON of information out there (a few links at the bottom of the post) and I have no desire to simply regurgitate all of it.  However, below are a few of the pieces that stand out the most to me:

CANON AND MIRRORLESS

There are a bunch of videos available to watch regarding Canon's first full-frame mirrorless camera (yes, just one "R" camera announced at this time) but the most informative ones are hosted by Canon technical adviser Rudy Winston.  From the get-go he minces no words, noting that the "driving force" behind the new mirrorless system is not about making things more compact, etc. but it is all about optics.  The point is well-taken, and reminds us that camera bodies will continually be upgraded, but the glass - the lenses, the optics - is where the heart of the overall system lies.

RF MOUNT

The new RF mount - the next evolution from the EF mount (1987) which introduced autofocus and lens and camera body data communication - is the backbone of the new system.  The throat of the mount at 54 mm is the same as the EF mount (though you can't attach an EF lens without an adapter), and keeping it at this size has opened up many design opportunities.

For example, keeping the bigger throat in the mirrorless system as allowed Canon's lens engineers the ability to use bigger glass on the rear, mount-end of an RF lens, and smaller glass on the front.  Doing so reduces the need to bend (distort) the light even more on the back-focus, to get it to the full-frame sensor, which is now only 20 mm away thanks to the mirrorless design.  

Additionally, the new 12-pin communication system (EF had 8 pins), coupled with the new DIGIC 8 image processor allows for more data to be communicated between lens and body, delivered faster.  When combined with the new RF lenses, this combination allows for such results as boosted image stabilization performance and adds new possibilities, like the programmable control ring on the new RF lenses, focus-distance metering (it's now in the viewfinder!), supports a huge 5000+ point, faster AF system, etc.

RF LENSES AND ADAPTERS

I was surprised at first to see that Canon was releasing 3 major L lenses from the get-go.  Understanding Canon and their take on optics being the core of the system realigned my thinking, however.  They are not looking at mirrorless as just a means to make things smaller (which is important to me, though they did not ask :) - they are leveraging the opportunity to build even better, sharper, more elegant optics.  

With this, they are introducing a "workhorse" (not to be confused with a kit lens) 24-105 F/4 IS L, a first for Canon 28 - 70 F/2 L USM ($3K!), and a low-light 50 F/1.2 L.  They are also releasing a non-L 35 F/1.8, Macro IS STM which will no-doubt be a go-to lens to those working in video (and need an RF lens a little more on budget.)  Canon has certainly covered their bases with the initial RF lens offerings and are immediately working to exploit the design flexibilities that the new RF mount is said to offer.

A little more about the RF 28 - 70 f/2 - this lens is their flagship of the new RF lineup.  They are touting it not just as a zoom (at f/2!) but as good enough as to be considered equal to a bag full of high-end primes, potentially replacing, say, your 35 and 50, with both a wide angle 28, and a portrait-worthy 70.  Had this lens been designed for a DSLR it would have been huge and heavy!

Other notable aspects of the new RF Lenses and the adapters:

  • Programmable Control Ring - control camera functions from a ring on the lens.
  • Nano-USM Motor - ultrasmooth autofocus, ideally suited for video recording.
  • 1/8TH Stop Aperture Control During Video Recording - fine tune that exposure!
  • 3 EF Lens adapters - all EF glass will need to be adapted, but Canon is firmly supporting EF glass.  Canon is offering three adapters to do so.  One is standard (lowest cost), another adds the programmable control ring into the design, and a third offers the intriguing option of drop-in filters, like a polarizer, or ND.

EOS-R

Regarding the camera body itself, there is a lot to be excited about, and there is a lot that can come-off as rather ho-hum.  I'll hit on the things to love (and not) in a moment, but it should be noted that Canon is not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes with this first offering.  In one of his intro videos, Rudy Winston comes right out and says that with this first body release is targeting the mid-market, enthusiast.  This is just the beginning.

Although the 30+ MP sensor is the same one found in the 5D MKIV, this is not your Canon 5D, 1D equivalent body.  Those that have used it, like the folks over at DPReview say it feels solid in the hands, and they liken it more to the 6DMKII - which thankfully is also true of the price, coming in at $2,299 USD.  Not inexpensive, of course, but on target for the feature set it boasts when compared to the rest of the EOS line.

For me, things to love (or at least be intrigued about) with the new EOS-R, beyond the fact that it is simply proof that Canon is taking mirrorless seriously and moving forward, are:

  • The ISO 100 - 40000 range is supposedly cleaner in higher ISO's with DIGIC 8.
  • AF covers 88% horizontally and 100% vertically of the image area.
  • Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus with 5,655 manually selectable AF points.
  • Supports AF at up to f/11 with a 384 zone (24×16) real-time metering system (this is big for those using EF lenses with a 1.4 X or 2.0 x adapter - new AF abilities!)
  • Touch screen AF.
  • Manual Focus Peaking - FINALLY (and other focus help).
  • Eye-detection within face tracking - this is supposedly a huge deal, not just a hobbyist feature.
  • Low-light AF down to EV -6!  (Apparently focus is always made with the lens wide-open and not stopped down.)
  • Silent shutter mode.
  • The new multi-function bar - more programmable control, on camera.
  • OLED viewfinder is said to be wonderful, and very easy to view for those with glasses (like me!)
  • Flip out rear screen.
  • 12 buttons, include the new.
  • SD card UHS-II class compatible.
  • WiFi and Bluetooth built in.

Things not to love:

  • 8 fps with NO focus - many caveats - as slow as 3 fps
  • Minimal buffer
  • One SD slot!  (I need two, just for peace of mind and for overflow, non-stop situations.)
  • See video, not-to-love, below.

VIDEO

Video in EOS stills cameras is always hard to judge as Canon is careful to not cannibalize their higher-end video line with their stills line.  This can be frustrating, and I wish they would take an approach that is closer to Sony's and just allow the features to be there.  That said, the EOS-R does take steps forward in the video arena, for a Canon stills camera that does video.  I'm not thrilled about the internal, 8-bit 4:2:0 recording, but beyond that ...

Things to love:

  • UHD 4K internal recording at up to 30p
  • Internal HDR (in Full HD only)
  • Selectable colorspace of Rec 709/BT2020 to external recorder
  • C-LOG
  • 12 stops of dynamic range
  • 10 bit 4:2:2 to an external recorder
  • A flip-out screen
  • Touch-screen focus (also paired with nano-USM on RF lenses)

Things not to love:

  • 1.7 4K crop of the sensor for 4K (like the 5DMKIV)
  • No 60p 4K
  • 8 bit 4:2:0 internal recording

TAKEAWAY

In the end, there is much to be happy about in regard to Canon's EOS-R announcement.  I believe that through their next-steps in the RF mount, its integration into the EOS-R itself and Canon's stunning new RF lenses they have laid out a solid direction for mirrorless.  No longer are we dinking around in the EOS M land, where direction and dedication from the company seemed hard to follow; Canon has a solid path forward.  

For me, while the EOS-R may not be the mirrorless camera body I want from Canon, I have little doubt that what I am looking for is on the horizon, and the EF glass I own will not only be compatible with the new system, but that the new system itself will be worth the investment moving into the future.

LINKS

Canon EOS-R
DPReview
The Verge
Sony vs Nikon vs Canon